In 1793, the new Minister of France, known as Citizen Genêt, was sent to America to gain support for the budding Revolution. On April 8, 1793, Genêt arrived in Charleston, S.C. to great fanfare. Genêt’s first goal was to organize a team of Americans to serve as privateers (pirates) against British shipping interests. After successfully recruiting privateers, Genêt set sail for Philadelphia, drumming up support along the way and encouraging the formation of Jacobin clubs. Such clubs were formed to promote support for the French Revolution and were numerous in France. The word “Jacobin” is French for political radical.
After receiving a cold reception from George Washington, and after Washington’s Neutrality Proclamation of April 22, Genêt conceived of a plan to mobilize the American public to overthrow Washington and his cabinet. At this point, even Jefferson agreed that Genêt had gone too far and the new French Minister was recalled to France. Facing certain execution in France for misconduct, Genêt pleaded for asylum, which was granted by George Washington. The Genêt episode did much harm to the credibility of Republican support for the French Revolution and cooled popular support.